Walking around Tokyo today I passed a Bathing Ape store on got onto the topic of how the brand came to be. After a little Googling I ran across this excellent article that documents the fall of the brand and eventually to this interesting theory on “cultural arbitrage”:
The hipster elite are starting to show annoyance at this development. Former mo wax guru James Lavelle, quoted in Tokion, lamented that it is now impossible to stay “underground.” Lavelle and his kindred folk profit from exploiting cultural arbitrage: taking information from inaccessible sources and cashing in on that unequal access to information. (In general, a lot of people whom you probably think are cooler than you make a bulk of their money from this inequality in information.) No one in the West knew that Bape is a mainstream brand in Japan, and therefore, Lavelle was able to subtly and indirectly create the brand image to his own liking…* Now, with the high speed “information superhighway,” profit from cultural arbitrage business looks doubtful in the long run.
It’s not revolutionary, but it’s a nice way to think about how culture moves.
* I had to cut out a few sentences because they talk about how financial arbitrage used to work but no longer does, which just isn’t true.
I’ve always kind of wondered what made cashmere so much more expensive than wool other than the fact it’s softer. Slate has an answer:
Its costly production process and scarcity. Cashmere comes from the soft undercoat of goats bred to produce the wool. It takes more than two goats to make a single two-ply sweater. The fibers of the warming undercoat must be separated from a coarser protective top coat during the spring molting season, a labor-intensive process that typically involves combing and sorting the hair by hand. These factors contribute to the relatively low global production rate of cashmere—approximately 30,000 pounds a year compared to about 3 billion pounds of sheep’s wool.
So there you have it. Undercoats is the answer.
Not exactly something I had ever thought about, but io9 has an interesting post about how comic book characters came to have their underwear on the outside and why the industry shouldn’t bail on the innovation now. The money quote:
Underpants on tights were signifiers of extra-masculine strength and endurance in 1938. The cape, showman-like boots, belt and skintight spandex were all derived from circus outfits and helped to emphasize the performative, even freak-show-esque, aspect of Superman’s adventures. Lifting bridges, stopping trains with his bare hands, wrestling elephants: these were superstrongman feats that benefited from the carnival flair implied by skintight spandex. [Artist Joe] Shuster had dressed the first superhero as his culture’s most prominent exemplar of the strongman ideal, unwittingly setting him up as the butt of ten thousand jokes.
Muji gloves with a conductive finger for touchscreen technology. Who’s in charge around here again? We now need to buy new clothing with additional pockets for devices, holes for headphones and materials to allow for interaction. We design tools and then the tools design us. As an aside, I was doing some research recently and in the ten years between 2006 and 2016 the smartphone market is estimated to shift from being 7 percent touchscreen to 97 percent touchscreen respectively. Not sure if that’s impressive or just a sad statement about the industry’s inability to think beyond what’s happening right now.